Thousands of Dutch brave cold for New Year's dip in the sea
AFP - Friday, January 2
THE HAGUE (AFP) - - Thousands of Dutch people stripped Thursday to brave near-freezing temperatures for a heart-stopping North Sea plunge that has become an annual New Year's ritual.
After a countdown from 20, hordes of white, sun-starved bodies in bikinis and bathing trunks raced along the Scheveningen beach in The Hague around lunchtime for a shocking, mostly brief, splash in the waves.
Afterwards, they flocked in droves to nearby tents where they were treated to a mug of traditionally Dutch pea soup.
"It was very, very cold -- but refreshing" said 19-year-old Jorik Spruijt, his teeth chattering as he emerged from the sea and rushed to pull on dry clothes.
"It's a nice, crazy think to do with your friends. Being normal is just boring."
The sea temperature, measured at six degrees Celsius, was about four degrees higher than on land.
"I do it for the kick!" 65-year-old James van den Berg told AFP after completing his 20th New Year's dive.
Organiser Niek de Rooij said the event started 49 years ago as a joke by an individual which soon caught on among his friends and then became a national craze.
"It is all about being a bit crazy, about bonding and about being Dutch really -- doing something totally strange," he told AFP.
Organisers said about 6,500 people took part in Thursday's mass plunge at Scheveningen, about 3,500 fewer than expected. Some 14,000 others took to the waves in other sea-side towns around the Netherlands -- but the event had to be cancelled on four beaches due to ice formation.
"The recent extreme cold weather kept many away, which makes the efforts of those who did show up all the more heroic!" said De Rooij, who has himself done the dive only once, in 1998.
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Some 6500 people bath in the North sea in Scheveningen during the traditional New Year Dive. Thousands of Dutch people stripped Thursday to brave near-freezing temperatures for a heart-stopping North Sea plunge that has become an annual New Year's ritual.
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